At any given moment, 40 percent of Americans are sleep deprived, with many getting less than 5 hours of sleep each night. Who’s leading the sleep-deprived pack? Adolescents. The consequences of sleep deprivation are quite serious, not only for the individual who isn’t getting enough sleep, but for those around them as well. Getting less than 6 hours of sleep each night actually leaves you cognitively impaired! Sleep deprivation has also been linked to terrible health effects such as obesity, diabetes, fertility issues, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, depression, and cancer.
So what actually happens to your body when you’re sleep deprived? Here are 5 major risks to your health when you’re not catching enough z’s:
1. Reaction time slows: When you’re tired, you cannot react as quickly as your normally would. This means that driving, using power tools, etc., is much more dangerous and not only can cause harm to you, but to those around you. One recent study found that driving while tired is just as dangerous as drinking and driving!
2. Your cognition suffers. Just one night of only 4 to 6 hours of sleep can impact your ability to think clearly, making it difficult for you to process information and make decisions. Research has also shown that those with chronic sleep problems may develop Alzheimer’s sooner than those who get the recommended amount of sleep each night — why? Sleep is essential for brain detoxification, a process in which harmful proteins, linked to Alzheimers, are cleared out.
3. Memory declines. Sleep and sleep loss modify the expression of several genes in the body that are important for the body’s ability to commit things to memory! By not getting enough rest, you’re negatively impacting your body’s ability to learn.
4. Emotions are heightened. When you’re tired, your emotions are heightened, making you much more likely to argue and blow things out of proportion. The frontal cortex portion of your brain regulates emotions, and sleep is crucial for its proper function. When you’re well-rested, your frontal cortex can work as it should, regulating your emotions and feelings!
5. Health deteriorates. Not getting enough sleep has the same negative impact on your immune system as physical stress or illness, explaining why lack of sleep is commonly linked to chronic diseases. Did you know that sleeping less than 6 hours per night more than triples your risk of high blood pressure? And that women who get less than 4 hours of sleep per night double their chances of dying from heart disease?
The studies are clear — you need at least 8 hours of sleep each night, so hit the hay a little earlier tonight and sleep to your health!